The final meeting of the innovative preparatory action TRANSFER was held in Belgrade on the 22nd and 23rd of May 2023 bringing the 29-month project to a close. All in all, 28 exchange visits between Supporter Liaison Officers (SLOs) were completed during the project’s timeline boosting the professional development & capacity-building of the role across Europe.
TRANSFER was started by SD Europe, and completed with input from FSE following the merger between the organisations in October 2022. The project has engaged SLOs and SSOs (Security & Safety Officers) at more than 40 clubs across six countries making it the most expansive supporter liaison development project to date.
The aim of TRANSFER was to develop improved safety, security and service practices at football matches across the continent. The six project partners - the Football Association of Serbia, the Premier League, Ligue 1, the Football Association of the Czech Republic, Bundesliga, the Scottish Football Association - all took part in the final meeting in Belgrade. During the meeting, the partners enjoyed two fruitful days of discussions and disseminations with the opportunity to present their individual outcomes from the project and learn from each other.
The final meeting took time to focus on the groundbreaking exchange visits that saw SLOs and SSOs travel together from one club to another in a partner country in order to shadow their counterparts on matchdays. The aim of the visits was for the SLOs and SSOs to learn from each other and apply the learnings in their own environment at their clubs. Diaries from each SLO and SSO were required from each visit, capturing a subjective summary of their observations and learnings, which were overwhelmingly beneficial for both the hosts and visitors.
One SLO wrote after one particular visits: “I have learned that I should engage with our supporters better and how to do so. That is a relationship based on mutual understanding and developing trust, which is what I will be aiming to achieve. I know it will take time and I can’t do this in isolation but there needs to be a start.” Another SLO wrote: “I recognise and appreciate the dynamics of differing fan cultures coming together at national level more now.”
Whilst another summarised: “The TRANSFER programme was a really good experience for our club to learn the processes on a match day in another country and to see how they work with their fans. We’ve learned a lot that we can now apply in our stadium and on our matchdays.”
The exchange visits also facilitated an unanticipated positive outcome in allowing SLOs and SSOs time together during the exchange visits to grow a greater appreciation for each other’s role and improve their working relationship.
The partners also got to hear the project’s academic expert, Professor Aage Radmann of Malmö and Oslo University, describe his findings from the participant diaries. Quite a few themes came through, while the six partners have already built networks around themselves to further the safety, security and service aspects surrounding football.
Speaking on the conclusion of the project, FSE’s SLO Development Officer Tony Ernst said: “To see the progress made by the project partners over the course of TRANSFER is incredibly encouraging. The outcomes from the project demonstrate the benefits of the proper integration of SLOs and SSOs into matchday organisation. We’re also pleased to see partners want to continue self-organised exchange visits and informal relationships beyond the lifetime of the project to continue to develop and learn from each other.
“Some countries are further down the road with the development of the SLO role, and because of TRANSFER’s exchange visit methodology, it’s been possible to share and exchange best practice approaches helping SLOs across the continent to continue to improve. Ultimately, in the long term, this leads to better match days from an experiential perspective for supporters.”
FSE would like to thank everyone involved in making the project such a success.